Boston MBTA "T" Tips

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Is there a story behind the song about Charlie, the man that was stuck on the MTA in Boston?

Charlie on the MTA

Remember “Charlie on the MTA”? It was a 1959 song that spent a long time at the top of the charts and it was Boston's transit system that did poor Charlie in. The song was written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes in 1948 as part of Boston politician Walter O'Brien's campaign for mayor of the city. Back in those days, ticket price hikes were accomplished by means of a complicated exit fare so the turnstiles would not have to be changed every time the price went up. O'Brien wanted to simplify the system and get rid of the exit fares. The song had Charlie boarding the train at Kendall Square station and changing for Jamaica Plain. Then, for want of a nickel for the dreaded exit fare, Charlie was stuck on board. Every day, his wife would pop up at Scollay Square station (now the Government Center stop) to toss Charlie a sandwich “as the train went rumbling through”. Listeners never quite understood why she didn't just hand him a nickel instead of a sandwich but then there would be no song. Sung by the Kingston Trio, the MTA song became a familiar piece of American folk music and still enjoys some popularity today. Especially in Boston. When the Mass Transit Authority instituted an automatic card system, they called it the “Charlie Card”. And where's Charlie today? Still on board, some say...”He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston – he's the man who never returned.” Poor ole Charlie.


The Red Line

According to the Massachusetts Transit Bay Authority website, over 210,000 riders step on board the red line on a daily basis. The T-Red line takes users from Dorchester and beyond to Harvard Square, Kendall Square, Central Square, Davis Square and Porter Square.

The red line also takes users to the JFK Museum, the Bay State Expo Center and University of Massachusetts-Boston.


The Blue Line

Travelers take note:
If you're heading to the airport, hop on the blue line. Boston's Blue Line takes riders from the Financial District (Government Center) or State Street to Logan International Airport.
Feel like flying standby on another flight? Continue on your route on the blue line to Wonderland, one of the state's four racetracks. Or, if it's a nice day, take the train to Revere Beach and stroll down the Revere Beach walkway.


Orange Line

The MBTA's Orange Line heads directly across the city making stops in Back Bay, Chinatown, Downtown Crossing, the Financial District, and Tuft's Medical Center before transporting riders to Jamaica Plain.


The Green Line

The Green Line has four subsequent lines: B, C, D, E lines.

* The B-Line takes riders from Downtown Boston to Boston College, making stops along Commonwealth Avenue route, past Boston University.
* The C-Line takes city passengers from Downtown Boston to Cleveland Circle. This route travels through Brookline, past Coolidge Corner, until it reaches Cleveland Circle.
* The D-Line takes travelers farthest from the city, from Downtown Boston to Riverside Drive. This train makes stops at Fenway Park and the Longwood Medical Center complex.
* The E-Line heads to Northeastern University and some of Boston's finest museums, including The Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.


Boston's Commuter Rail

The Commuter Rail, or purple line, is Boston's answer to suburban commuters who work/play in the city. Whether it's commuting weekday for business or traveling to the beach on the weekends, the purple line is the answer for all Bostonians looking to avoid that horrible Hub traffic.


Boston's Amtrak Station

You can find access to Amtrak trains at various locations in the Boston area. Boston's South Station is Amtrak's Hub for city travelers seeking escape to Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. Amtrak cross-country trains also leave out of South Station. Check Amtrak train schedules and times before arriving at the station. South Station is also a docking ground for the MBTA Commuter Rail and Red Line travelers. You can also find Amtrak trains at Back Bay Station in Boston.


"T" History

Boston was on the forefront of mass transportation in 1631 when the first ferry made it's way from Boston to Charlestown, and back again.
Over the next 100 years, the Boston peninsula, better known today as the city of Boston, evolved with new means of transportation to help farmers, settlers and families start a new life in the new colonies.

By the 1820's, a new means of transportation offered itself up to Bostonians - the omnibus. Longer than a conventional stagecoach, the omnibus seats that lined either side of the bus and a door at either end. In theory, stagecoaches went "express" from one city or town while omnibuses made several stops along an assigned route, thus making way for a new mode of transportation...

A few decades later, Boston welcomed its first streetcar. On January 1, 1889, what is known today as Boston's Green Line made it's first trip from the Allston Railroad Depot, up Harvard Avenue, left at Coolidge Corner to Boston's Park Square.

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